Van Sandt v. Royster
83 P.2d 698 (1938)

  • Way back in 1904, Bailey split her property into three parts and sold 1/3 to Jones, Murphy, and Gray each. A sewer line crossed all three properties in order to get to the main sewer line in the street.
    • Jones was nearest to the main line, so Murphy and Gray’s sewage had to cross under Van Sandt’s property.
    • Jones sold to Van Sandt, and Murphy sold to Royster.
  • Thirty-two years later, the sewer line backed up and flooded Van Sandt’s property. He sued to stop Royster and Gray from using the sewer line.
    • Royster and Gray argued that there must be an easement for them to use the sewer, so they were not liable for trespass.
    • Van Sandt argued there was no evidence of an easement allowing Royster and Gray to use the sewer line.
    • Van Sandt argued that there could only be an implied easement if it was apparent, and he had no idea that the sewer line was under his property.
  • The Trial Court found for Royster and Gray. Van Sandt appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that the sewer was an appurtenance to the property.
      • Appurtenance is a legal term for what belongs to and goes with something else.
    • The Court found that the easement was created by implied reservation on the severance of the servient from the dominant estate.
      • The servient estate is the land that has the easement placed on it.
      • The dominant estate is the land that is served by the easement.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that:
      • Jones and Bailey knew about the sewer when the property was split up.
      • Van Sandt should have known that his sewage must be draining somewhere.
        • Just because something isn’t visible, that doesn’t mean it isn’t “apparent.”
    • The Court found that an easement can be implied on the basis of necessity alone.
  • When the sewer was first constructed, all the land belonged to Bailey, and you can’t have an easement on your own land. However, when you use part of your land to benefit another part, that is called a quasi-easement.
    • The part receiving the benefit is the quasi-dominant tenement. And the part that is being utilized is the quasi-servient tenement.
    • Following the English case of Pyer v. Carter, when a quasi-servient tenement is transferred to a new owner, there is an implied reservation of an easement.
      • On the other hand, other cases (see Wheeldon v. Burrows for example) have said just the opposite; that if you want there to be an easement then it has to be expressly stated.
  • Basically, there are two basic situations in which one can get an implied easement.
    • First, an easement is implied when there is a single tract of land and the tract is divided, and there is continuous or apparent use of the easement.
      • Known as an easement by prior use.
      • The assumption is, that when the property was divided and sold, the buyers and sellers factored the price of the easement into the purchase price of the land.
      • An easement by prior use runs with the land and does not expire.
    • Second, an easement is implied when the dominant estate requires the easement for ‘enjoyment’ of the land, and the necessity arose when the dominant parcel is severed from the servient parcel.
      • Known as an easement by necessity.
      • Only exists as long as the necessity exists. For example, if a new sewer line was built, and Royster didn’t need Van Sandt anymore, the easement would become void.
  • In this case, the original owner, Bailey sold off what became the servient estates while she kept the dominant estate. Does that make a difference?
    • Turns out you can sell off your property while reserving an easement on the property you sell off. This is known as a right by reservation.
    • The Courts have held the standard requirement to be an absolute necessity for the easement, as opposed to a reasonable necessity, which is what you’d need if the seller was selling the dominant estate and keeping the servient estate.